Party’s Over, Everyone Go Home

After Mr. Thurman’s abrupt departure, most of Opa’s neighbors went home.  Meanwhile, their aunts and uncles gathered on Opa’s deck to discuss the development.  Tevas seemed tense for some reason that Konrad suspected had little to do with the Dark Ones and much more to do with the need to explain his job to his brother and sisters.

When Tevas didn’t speak up right away, Uncle Andrew looked at him and cleared his throat significantly.  Konrad imagined the older man was arching his brows as well, but it wasn’t quite dim enough for him to see in that sort of detail.

Heaving a sigh, Tevas leaned towards his brother.  “How much did Hans get to explain before he started singing at Mr. Thurman?” he asked, looking among them.

It was Aunt Sophie who spoke up first.  “He said they’d found a portal into… the otherworld in Dad’s garden,” she replied.  She hugged Meredith a bit closer.  “That it was clear that the Thurmans were involved in opening it and he didn’t quite know why that might be.”

“That was Mr. Thurman claimed ignorance,” Uncle Andrew said, his voice soft.  “Johannes’s retort was to ask him if he thought we hadn’t noticed him trying to attack Johannes.”

“We certainly noticed,” Aunt Claire murmured.  She shook her head.  “How stupid does he think we are?”

“People who aren’t used to dealing with magic have an amazing capacity to explain it in mundane terms or just… forget they’ve seen it,” Tevas said, shrugging.  “I’ve had to take care of situations with Singers where they went after a civilian.  Once they’re dealt with, the civilians might even ask us what we’re doing there.”

“What just happened here?” Aunt Nancy said, her voice strained.  “Where did Konrad get that sword?  How did Mr. Thurman… do that?  Where’d he get his sword, for that matter?”

Konrad glanced at Tevas.  Turning back to Aunt Nancy, he said, “Do you know anything about Haven communities or Cross families?”

“Yes,” Aunt Sophie said.  Her voice was faint and tinged with surprise.  “You’re crosses?  Oh, my God, Henry!  Crosses?  Is that what happened to their parents?”

“Kamile and Adrien were killed by a Singer,” Tevas said, his voice soft.  He waved at Konrad and continued.  “The Engel family has been a cross family for… as long as anyone has been keeping track of such things.”

“Crosses fight against demons,” Uncle Lukas said.  “Are they all Defenders?”

“Johannes is the True Cross,” Tevas said, setting a hand on Johannes’s shoulder.  “What you saw him do today… that’s only a small sample of his abilities.”

Nodding, Uncle Lukas said, “If what the Council of Wizards knows is anywhere near accurate, he’ll be fighting these things for the rest of his life.”

“It’s our job to make sure that’s a very long time,” Konrad said, his voice faint.  “Defenders are the only thing that stands between a True Cross and the tainted spirits they fight.”

“But the Thurman’s aren’t tainted spirits,” Aunt Nancy said.  “You said that they were something different… Dark Ones?”

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What are the Thurmans?

Continuing from where we left off…

**

Frieda caught Henry’s hand and he looked down at her.  She was frowning at Mr. Thurman.  “He’s not like the Singers,” she said, her voice faint.  She looked at Johannes and shook her head.  “They don’t hiss at you when you sing the Purification Song.”

Panis Angelicus,” Nancy said, her voice faint.

Konrad’s lips twitched and he shrugged.  “Potato, potato,” he said, pronouncing the word two different ways.  “You call it by its lyrical name.  We call it by its functional name.”

Henry looked over at Liesel.  “How’s Mr. Thurman different from the Singers and the other tainted spirits that Johannes purifies, Liesel?” he asked.  Somehow, he felt like it was important to know that detail at that moment.

Liesel’s brows furrowed and she tilted her head.  As the wind ruffled her hair, her eyes widened.  “He serves the Dark One,” she breathed.  “So does Mrs. Thurman.”

Mr. Thurman suddenly straightened.  He thrust out his hand at Johannes.  At that moment, a long jagged blade appeared in his hand.  Konrad pushed his younger brother back as Mr. Thurman struck.  Konrad hissed in pain as the blade slashed across his arm.

“Konrad,” Claire breathed, leaping forward without a thought for her own safety.  She grabbed a napkin with one hand and his arm with the other, pressing the napkin firmly over the wound.  As a nurse, some things just came as instinct.

Without missing a beat, Johannes left off singing the first song and switched to a series of chanted lyrics in Latin.  As he said the two phrases over and over, Mr. Thurman continued to try to attack.  However, each blow bounced harmlessly off a barrier between him and everyone else.  Then, he hissed and leapt onto the porch overhang.  He ran and leapt off the roof before vanishing into the garden.

Johannes turned to Konrad, rushing to his side as Claire helped him sit down.  “It’s all right, Aunt Claire,” he said, patting her arm.  Then, in a sweet, clear voice, he began singing yet another song.

Nancy released a shaky breath and looked over at Henry.  “Do I want to know what Ave Maria is going to do?” she asked, her voice faint.  He could tell that she was having trouble taking it all in.  After all, Henry didn’t mention work very often.

“They call it the Healing Song,” he said, his voice soft.

Claire heaved a sigh and carefully eased the napkin away.  Then, she gently wiped at were the wound had been, revealing newly healed flesh.  Looking at Konrad, she said, “Are you all right, sweetie?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Konrad said.  As Johannes finished the song, he smiled.  “Thank you, little brother.”

Johannes looked at his brother and nodded.  Then, he looked at Claire, before turning to Nancy and then Henry.  “I think we know who opened the portal in Opa’s garden,” he said.

“The only question now is… why?” Henry said, nodding.

Here Comes Ugly

I had fun with this…

**

As soon as Mrs. Thurman moved towards them, Liesel moved between her and Meredith.  Frieda darted in with her pike, blocking the attack and shoving the older woman back with surprising force.

Liesel watched as Mrs. Thurman growled and tried to get around her sister.  However, Frieda wasn’t going to let that happen.  In fact, she went on the offensive, swinging her pike around in an attempt to strike the woman.

“Protect the Cross,” the wind whistled in Liesel’s ear.

Gasping, Liesel turned to her cousin.  “Go and get Markus,” she said.  “Tell Konrad that he needs to stay with Hansel.”  Meredith nodded once and then hurried away.

Growling, Mrs. Thurman moved to block the girl, but Liesel struck her arm with her hammer.  Then, she was working with Frieda to keep the woman back.  Liesel’s mind whirled as she fought.  Was Mrs. Thurman tainted with darkness?  Was she possessed?  Was there more going on than they realized?

“Focus,” the wind told her sharply.

Liesel slipped on the grass as Mrs. Thurman took a swipe at her with clawed fingers.  As she went down, Frieda blocked the attack.  She rolled out of the way and hopped to her feet once again.

 

Henry looked up when Meredith came careening out of the garden calling not for her mother, but for him.  “Meredith,” he said, moving to his feet.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?” his sister asked at the same time.

“Uncle Henry,” Meredith said, “something’s wrong with Mrs. Thurman.”  As Mr. Thurman moved to his feet, she turned to Konrad.  “Liesel said to get Markus, but you have to stay with Hansel.”

Konrad gasped and moved to his feet.  At the same time, Mr. Thurman moved with surprising speed, running for Johannes.  There was the sound of a sword hissing against a scabbard and Konrad swung his weapon around, setting the flat of it against Mr. Thurman’s chest.

While several people gasped and Nancy called his name in a scolding tone, Konrad was quite calm as he said, “Hansel, get behind me.”

“Yes, Brother,” Johannes said.

Sophie caught Meredith and drew her back, so that she was in her arms.  “I think Konrad’s got this handled,” she said, meeting Henry’s eyes.  “Maybe you and Markus had better go and check on the girls?”

Henry nodded once and then beckoned to Markus.  “Let’s go,” he said, his tone brisk.  “Dad, explain what’s going on to Nance, before she has a heart attack.”

“I’ll explain, Tevas,” Konrad said, nodding.  He tapped Mr. Thurman lightly with the sword.  “Do sit down, please, or else… yeah, Hans will have to sing at you.”

The old man hissed and Nancy gasped softly.  “Did he just… hiss?” Andrew said.

Henry nodded and then he and Markus hurried away from the rest of the party to where Meredith had left Liesel and Frieda.  The garden was large enough that Henry wasn’t sure where to find them.  However, Markus seemed to know, so he followed the boy.

As they drew near the water feature in the garden, the sound of fighting reached his ears and Henry darted ahead of his son.  “Sing,” he said, as the girls came into view.

With that single word, all three of his children began singing the song that was repulsive to tainted spirits.  Henry had heard it all his life and knew it as “Donna Nobis Pacem.”  Until he’d adopted the Engel children, he’d never imagined the power in the simple repetitive melody.

As soon as Liesel and Frieda began singing, Mrs. Thurman fell back from them, hissing and growling.  After a moment, she spun away and fled back into the brush, leaping and bounding with surprising agility.

Liesel released a shuddering breath and, banishing her hammer, spun to face Henry.  “Is Johannes all right?” she asked, tears in her eyes.

“He’s fine,” Henry assured her.  He wasn’t surprised when she ran into his arms and hugged him.  Rubbing her shoulder, he repeated the words a few more times.  He looked over at Frieda.  “Are either of your girls hurt?”

“I think she scratched me,” Frieda said, looking at her arm.  Then, she grimaced and said, “Liesel fell down.  Did you bump your head?”

Shaking her head, Liesel pulled out of Henry’s embrace.  “Just my bottom,” she said, grimacing.  She rubbed at her eyes and looked up at Henry.  “Is everyone all right?”

“Aunt Nancy’s torn between horrified that Konrad drew a sword on Opa’s neighbor and freaked out that he hissed about it,” Markus said, smothering a laugh.

Henry heaved a sigh.  “She’ll get over it,” he said.  Then, he glanced towards the Thurman’s house.  “So… Dad’s neighbors are tainted then?  Are they… possessed or were they always evil and just really good at pretending?”

“Evil’s always good at pretending, Tevas,” Frieda said.  “That’s what makes it so dangerous.”  Then, she banished her pike and hurried back through the garden towards the patio.

Markus and Liesel exchanged a look and Henry shrugged at the pair.  Sometimes, there was no talking to Frieda.  She tended to work on instinct.  That was simply how Lances were.

When Henry returned to the party, it was obvious that Johannes had decided he was done hiding behind his elder brother.  He was singing the purification song at Mr. Thurman.  That was really the only way to describe it.  The boy was staring at Mr. Thurman and singing in a clear, sweet voice.  Most of the people gathered on the patio were actually enjoying the song, but it was obvious that Mr. Thurman was not enjoying it at all.

The older man was hiding his face and cringing away from the boy, as if hearing the song was actually painful for him.  Perhaps it was.  Henry heaved a sigh and looked over at Konrad.

Shrugging, his son said, “Mr. Thurman started trying to convince Opa’s guests he wasn’t evil.  This… was Johannes’s way of proving him wrong.”

“The hell, Henry,” Claire breathed.  She looked up at him.  “It’s so beautiful.  How… How is that painful for him?”

“He’s evil,” Henry said, shrugging.  There really wasn’t any other way to describe it.  He was singing about bread from heaven.  Only something or someone evil would find that distasteful.

Sunshine Daydreams

I had a lot of fun with this prompt.  Just imagining the situation my character finds himself in was fun.  At the same time, I could totally see it happening.

Prompt: Sparkle

“Uncle?”

Marian looked up from his newspaper and hid a smile.  Camelia was wearing one of her party dresses.  It made sense.  After all, she was having a party.  However, it still caught him a bit off guard.  “Yes, Camelia,” he said, his voice soft.

When she hesitated, he folded the newspaper and set it aside.  “Is there something wrong?” he asked.  He glanced at the clock.  Her friends would probably be arriving in about thirty minutes.  He frowned at her.  “You’re not worried because they’re not here yet, are you?”

“No,” she said, flushing.  She gave him a weak smile.  “It’s early yet, but… I wondered if you might… like to join us.”

For a moment, Marian just stared at her.  The last couple months hadn’t been easy for either of them.  Marian knew that he wasn’t the ideal father figure.  He could be scary at times, especially to a little girl.  He also tended to be horribly overprotective.

He was trained to protect people.  That didn’t always mean that whoever he had been assigned to protect got to do what they wanted.  In fact, it was often quite the opposite.  When his niece wanted to do things, he treated her the way he did people he had protected in the past.  He assessed the situation and, too often deemed it too dangerous.

It had led to arguments.  Why couldn’t she go to the soda fountain with her friends?  Why did she need to stay close by him when they were in public?  Worse, too often, he couldn’t find a reason beyond, “because I said so”.

So, when Camelia asked him if she could have the other girls in her class over for a tea party, he couldn’t say no.  She would be in their backyard.  He could watch her from the kitchen window.  What could be safer?

This, however, was something he hadn’t anticipated.  He was torn from his reverie when Camelia flushed and shook her head.  “You don’t have to,” she said, a bit too quickly.  “I just figured that – that it…”

“I’d love to come,” he said, smiling.  Her eyes widened and, for the first time in quite a while, she smiled at him.  He gave a nervous chuckle and stood.  “Let me get changed,” he said.

By the time her friends were arriving, he was ready to join them.  He couldn’t help but chuckle at the girls – none of them older than twelve – arriving at his home dressed in their Sunday best, which hats and gloves and jewelry.  “They look so grown up,” he murmured at Gilbert.

Chuckling softly, Gilbert nodded.  He waved at Gretchen and said, “Have fun, sweetie.”  As she nodded and scampered out to the garden with Camelia, he turned to Marian.  “What are you going to do?”

“Camelia invited me to join them,” he said, shrugging.

Gilbert grinned and nodded.  “Have fun with that,” he said.  “I’m taking the boys out for ice cream, in the meantime.”

Felicja arrived at that moment with Zofia, also dressed in a lovely party dress.  “Henryk’s looking forward to that nearly as much as she’s been looking forward to their tea party,” she said.  Giving Marian a playful wink, she said, “Have fun, Marian.”

Marian nodded and offered Zofia his arm.  “The other girls are in the garden,” he said.  When she blushed, he added, “I’ll show you the way.”

“All right,” she said, taking his arm.  She waved absently at her mother as she and Gilbert left with the boys.

Outside, Marian was confronted with the reality of attending a tea party with four pre-teen girls.  They had their dolls in their laps.  Their gowns and jewelry seemed to twinkle in the sunlit garden.  There were sugar sprinkles on their cupcakes.  Even the teapot seemed to shine.  He’d never seen anything so sparkly in his life, but there was no escaping now.

He straightened and then poured tea for each of the girls.  Then, he took a seat between Camelia and Milda.  He was uncertain at first.  However, soon, he was chatting with the girls and, occasionally, their dolls as if he were at any afternoon tea.

When the time came for the girls to leave, he saw them out with Camelia by his side.  Then, he turned to her and smiled.  “Did you have a good time?” he asked, his voice soft.

Camelia nodded.  “Next weekend, can we do it again at Zofia’s house?” she asked.

“I don’t see why not,” Marian said, nodding.

Laughing, Camelia hugged him.  Then, she scampered off to change into her play clothes.  As she reached the upper landing, she said, “And, of course, you’ll come too.  It won’t be the same without you.”

“Of course?” Marian said, blinking.  He was certain, somehow, that he would be going above and beyond the call to attend another tea party.  After all, none of the other parents had stayed for this one.  He heaved a sigh and shook his head.  He knew that he’d been trapped, now.  He’d be attending tea parties with Camelia for the rest of the season.  “God, save me from little girls.”

Dreamers – part 11

I’m having so much fun with the prompts from NaNoWriYe’s DreamWidth.  My story has take another unexpected turn.  I know this thing with Marian’s brother is going to come up again.

(Prompt: Alone)

Marion frowned slightly as he strode into the banquet hall. Most of the other agents were married, or at least were dating. The young lady on his arm was not any sort of paramour for him.

“A bit young, isn’t she?” someone said.

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Marian turned to glare at the speaker. “Walker,” he said. Waving at Camelia, he added, “This is my niece, if you must know.” His brow twitched as he struggled to school his features. “Her father, my brother, passed away… suddenly. You might recall.”

“He’s being decorated posthumously,” Reader said, her voice soft. She gave Camelia a weak smile. “I’m sorry for your loss, Miss Albescu. Your father was a great man.”

Camelia nodded slightly, but she didn’t say anything. Marian gave Reader a wan smile. “Thank you,” he said, his voice soft. He spotted Gilbert and then sighed as he noticed that the Schneider children were there too.

“Come on, Camelia,” he said, his tone gentle. He guided her towards Gilbert and Madeline and said, “I want you to meet some friends of mine.”

“Yes, Uncle,” she said, her voice faint.

It broke Marian’s heart to see her this way. He was hoping that seeing other children might help raise her spirits a bit. Her mother had died when she was very young. Now, Nicholai was gone too and she was alone.

“Hey, Gilbert,” Marian said, his tone full of forced cheer.

Gilbert whirled away from Singer and Tinker and frowned at him. “Marian, hey,” he said. He glanced at Madeline and tilted his head slightly to one side as he looked back at Marian. “Are you all right?”

Marian gave a weak laugh. “Peachy,” he said, shrugging. He heaved a sigh and then arched an eyebrow. “You hear of that transport accident?”

When Gilbert’s brows furrowed, Marian knew that he hadn’t heard anything of it. The science agent turned to his wife. “Maddie?”

“It happened about a week ago,” she said, her voice soft. “You had just come back from the Mushroom and you’ve been in your laboratory since you got back.”

Singer nodded. “I heard about it,” he said, his voice soft. His brows furrowed. “They were saying it might have been pilot error… that he got disoriented in the fog?”

“Papa didn’t crash the plane,” Camelia said, her voice cracking. She hiccupped and then buried her face in Marian’s chest, sobbing.

Marian blinked and then hugged her, a bit awkwardly. “They… My brother was the pilot,” he said, shrugging. He bit his lip and squeezed his eyes closed against the tears that were suddenly threatening.

To his surprise, Tinker drew Camelia into an embrace. “It’s all right, sweetie,” she said, her tone soothing. “You’re allowed to cry about things like this.” Then, she frowned at Marian. “You’re holding up all right?”

“Bereavement leave,” he said, shrugging. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped at his eyes. Then, he looked at Singer. The other agent was looking chagrined now and he shook his head. “Don’t worry about it, Singer,” he said. “That’s what the preliminary findings were pointing at.”

“They have new data, then?” Gilbert said, blinking.

Marian nodded. “They just finished analyzing the in-flight voice recorder,” he said. “It was sabotage. Nicholai said… that the controls weren’t responding properly. He could steer, but he couldn’t slow down. He fought to keep the transport in the air as long as he did… so that they crashed into an unpopulated area.”

“That’s why you’re here, then,” Madeline said. When Marian nodded, she gave him a weak smile. Then, she waved towards her children and Felicja’s twins. They were crowding around Camelia, chatting and exchanging hugs.

“They know each other?” Marian said, blinking.

Nodding, Madeline said, “Nicholai sent her to Camp Whip-poor-will for the summer?” When he nodded, she shrugged. “We did too.”

Marian heaved a sigh. “Well… hopefully, it’ll do her some good, seeing some familiar faces,” he murmured. He shook his head and then gave Gilbert a weak smile. “How’s it going with your investigation? The… dreamers?”

“We were going to try to contact them tonight,” Gilbert said, glancing at Madeline quickly. When she nodded, he heaved a sigh of relief. Then, he frowned at Marian. “Did you want to help? I know… you used to do séances when we were at school.”

“For All Hallow’s Eve,” Marian said, flushing. “That was… just for fun. This would be serious.” Then, he looked at Madeline and shrugged. “I’ll help, if you think I’ll do any good.”

“I’d be more comfortable with five people participating,” Madeline said, her voice soft. Her brows furrowed and she looked at Gilbert. “Four isn’t a good number.”

“There you go then,” Gilbert said, shrugging.

Singer nodded. “Daina can keep an eye on the kids,” he said, glancing toward the group, which now included his daughter as well.